B.B. from Litchfield County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
How long should the association wait to file foreclosure action after a homeowner has died and his survivor stops paying the monthly fees?
Mister Condo replies:
B.B., I am sorry for your community’s loss of a member. When a unit owner dies there is usually a short period of time when probate matters are handled. How well the deceased’s personal matters were tended to in advance often dictates how smoothly and quickly the process will go. A tidy, uncontested will can zip through the courts and assets can be sold off. An Executor usually handles items such as common fee payments during the asset/estate disposal process. A unit owner who dies without a will could be subject to a long and drawn out probate battle. That being said, the association is under no obligation to simply wait to be paid its fair share of common fees or assessments. In fact, here in Connecticut, the association is only guaranteed up to 9 months of common fees and reasonable legal fees as part of its reimbursements should the unit be foreclosed on. Most associations have collection policies in place that trigger a letter of demand after 30 days and a turnover to an attorney or a collection agency at 60 days. If collections are not possible at 60 days I would instruct the attorney to begin a foreclosure action. However, if the attorney advises against doing so because an agreement with the Executor has been reached, I would yield to the wisdom of the attorney. There is no need to begin an expensive foreclosure process if the association will be paid in timely fashion. Of course, if it is month 5 or Month 6, the clock is ticking and I might rethink that decision. Any unpaid fees beyond 9 months could be a loss to the association. In that case, I would recommend proceeding with the foreclosure to minimize the loss to the association. Good luck!